September 29, 2017 Edition

HHS Secretary Tom Price Resigns

This afternoon, U.S. Health and Human Secretary Tom Price, offered his resignation to President Trump.  The President is expected to designate Don J. Wright, the current Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health and the Director of the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion within the Department of Health and Human Services, as Acting Secretary.

U.S. Senate Abandons Graham-Cassidy Proposal

Earlier this week, Senate Republicans announced they would not hold a vote on the last-ditch Graham-Cassidy proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Over the weekend and early this week, a handful of senators continued to express uncertainty and opposition to the proposal, including Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), John McCain (R-Arizona), and Rand Paul (R-Kentucky). As a result, Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana) attempted to court undecided and opposed senators by releasing a revised proposal on Monday which reworked provisions and would have directed additional funds to those senators’ states.

On Monday, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on the bill which featured impassioned testimony from elected officials and health policy experts, both in support and opposition to the measure. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) also released a preliminary analysis of the Graham-Cassidy proposal, though it lacked many specifics. The CBO indicated it did not have enough time to estimate the impact of the proposal on health insurance coverage and marketplaces as it had done with the previous ACA repeal bills. In its analysis, the CBO estimated that people with health insurance “would be reduced by millions” compared to the ACA and that a $133 billion deficit reduction would occur by 2026 as a result of smaller block grants and federal funds shifting away from states that expanded Medicaid and toward states that did not.

Shortly following the release of the CBO analysis on Monday, Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) announced her firm opposition to the Graham-Cassidy proposal, effectively sinking the Republicans’ latest attempt to repeal the ACA. With uncertainty still lingering around whether a vote would still be held on the measure, Senate Republicans met Tuesday to  discuss their next steps. Ultimately, after determining no viable option forward given the expiration of key procedural powers this week and the lack of votes, Senate Republicans announced their decision to abandon a vote on the Graham-Cassidy proposal.

Though Congressional action around federal health insurance reform remains highly uncertain, CHEAC staff will continue to closely monitor federal activity on the issue.

Congress to Miss CHIP Reauthorization Deadline, Proposals Still Under Consideration

With funding set to expire this Sunday, October 1, both the Senate and House will not pass a reauthorization measure in time for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). By missing the deadline for reauthorization, states may soon have to notify families whose children are covered by the program that they may lose coverage. While members of Congress have indicated most states have adequate carry-over funds to keep their state programs running until the end of the year, states and child health advocates are increasingly worried about the absence of a reauthorization measure from Congress.

Earlier this month, the Senate Finance Committee reached a bipartisan agreement on a $35 billion five-year extension of the CHIP Program. The bill (S. 1827), however, has yet to be marked up by any Senate committee. On the other side, the House Energy and Commerce Committee has not yet reached a deal on reauthorizing or extending funding of the program. Bipartisan negotiations have been occurring in the House committee, though efforts have been delayed by the recent pursuit of the Graham-Cassidy ACA repeal proposal.

CHIP is a joint federal-state program that provides insurance to more than two million low-income children and pregnant women in California. The program was last reauthorized by Congress in 2015.

CDPH Releases STD Surveillance Report

This week, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) released its “2016 STD Annual Report” which includes data tables, trends, slides, and technical notes regarding sexually transmitted diseases throughout California last year. The report indicated the rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and early syphilis are increasing in California; CDPH is particularly concerned about the observed increase in the rate of congenital syphilis throughout the state.

To reverse these increasing STD trends, CDPH states that it will require active engagement of healthcare systems and medical providers, investments in new diagnostics and treatments, and meaningful partnerships between local health departments, community organizations, and educational institutions. The “2016 STD Annual Report” and supporting materials are available here. Summaries of 10-year trends and 2016 gender, age, and race/ethnicity STD distributions for each local health jurisdiction are available here.

CDC Launches Prescription Opioid Epidemic Awareness Campaign

This week the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched a powerful awareness campaign featuring real-life accounts of people recovering from opioid use disorder and people who have lost loved ones to prescription opioid overdose. The campaign aims to increase awareness and knowledge about the risk of prescription opioids and stop inappropriate use. CDC will use evidence-based methods to communicate targeted messages regarding prescription opioids and will partner with state and local health agencies and organizations to run ads and share resources throughout the country. Materials from the CDC’s newest awareness campaign, including videos, radio spots, online ads, and signs and billboards, are available here.